Mr Anderson's oeuvre has left me distinctly nonplussed on occasion. I missed Bottle Rocket and The Fantastic Mr Fox, however, and thought The Darjeeling Limited merely OK, but loathed the vastly irritating and self indulgent Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The Royal Tenenbaums was stillborn save for Gene Hackman's charismatic energy, but Rushmore was sublimely funny and a delight to watch.
Moonrise Kingdom doesn't equal it, but is nevertheless his most assured and amusing since that 1998 effort brought him to prominence. His quirky style utilising eccentric visuals and deadpan performances are all on confident display here. You rarely laugh out loud but you do have a smile on your face virtually all the way through, such is his bold command of pacing and plot.
The two leads are young newcomers Gilman and Hayward, both terrific as isolated children dealing with their burgeoning teenage love for each other as they run away from from their respective homes and go on the lam together, camping out in a forest and evading the police led by confused Willis and naive scoutmaster Norton. A storm is a-coming and they'll be in grave danger if they're not found soon. The scene where Willis and Murray, as the girl's father, almost get to fisticuffs over the kid's disappearance is a joy.
A thick streak of humour runs through all the playing but the performers never overdo it. They stay within Anderson's guidelines, keeping natural but always precise in eliciting their effects. Towards the end Tilda Swinton shows up as an aggressive social worker, and she gives the final few scenes a welcome jolt – not that a jolt is needed, mind. Anderson's surefooted framing and control keeps you in the palm of his hand for the duration, and his latest escapade is a sweet and agreeable affair, immensely likeable and very engaging.